Gregory Djerejian has a very involved and detailed piece on why he’s supporting George W. Bush in this election. Djerejian is not cheerleader for Bush. In fact, his piece is deeply critical of Bush’s policies towards Iraq and his inability to provide sufficient force to stabilize the country. However, he notes this about Bush:
George Bush, in my view, understands the nature of the evil we are combating. He understands it deep in his gut, to his very core, and this is why I will be voting for him in November. To be sure, I am voting for him with many reservations (of which more below); but I am confident and, indeed, proud of my vote because Bush’s intellectual firmament has grasped this essential truth.
A few days after 9/11; Bush movingly went to Ground Zero and rallied a nation. This was critical to our national fabric, and I will always honor him for it. To be frank and more revelatory than I may like on this blog–I still get emotional when I remember that day. To the grotesquely cheap Mooreian attacks regarding the “My Pet Goat” readings at the Florida school–I say remember the moment Bush grabbed that megaphone and rallied a profoundly wounded nation.
Bush then proceeded to go about methodically gaining Pakistan’s vital support in the fight against the Taliban–through the hugely admirable efforts of Colin Powell. Next, Bush swept the Taliban from power–denying al-Qaeda their key state sanctuary. Kerry now trots out the Tora Bora meme-that we let UBL get away because we “outsourced” the effort to local Afghans. This is a risible argument, as any serious observer well realizes. The Tora Bora mountain range is massive–and even if we had sent in many tens of thousands of our troops (as if Al Gore would have done so; a laughable notion as well)–there were myriad escape routes. Not only that, as recently pointed out in an op-ed in the WSJ, local tribesmen might well have taken up arms against us in the foothills before we even got to the die-hard al-Qaeda fighters–should such a massive insertion of U.S. fighting forces have occured. And, besides, we are not even sure UBL was even in Tora Bora during that time frame. No, more realistically, better to conclude: thank God Bush was Commander in Chief during the Afghan operation rather than Al Gore! Can you imagine a Les Aspin type planning such an operation?
Out of the rubble of Ground Zero and through the advent of Afghanistan–the Bush doctrine was born–the policy that states that nations that harbor terrorists would be held just as culpable by the United States as the terrorists themselves. Afghanistan, of course, was the wholly uncontroversial enunciation of this doctrine–and Iraq the much more controversial one. But, whatever you make of Iraq, can anyone now deny that the U.S. takes the threat of terror with the utmost seriousness? Have we not proven that we are not a paper tiger? That we will fight valiantly and hard in pursuit of our security and our values? This too, is part of Bush’s record–no matter how often it is poo-pooed by cynics who think this is all dumb Simian-like macho talk that doesn’t matter. I’m sorry, but it very much does. To deny this is to deny reality.
Djerejian’s piece is lengthy and very well argued, and Djerejian knows what he’s talking about. Indeed, my feelings about this election are much the same. I see the same in Bush that he does, and I also see the same negatives. Bush made some key mistakes in his first term – steel tariffs, McCain-Feingold, and committing too few troops to Iraq. However, John Kerry simply does not comprehend the nature of this war, as his lengthy interview with Matt Bai in The New York Times clearly indicates. Anyone who says that the attacks of September 11 did not change them is simply unfit to be Commander in Chief.
Indeed, Kerry’s foreign policy involves a return to the failed policies of the past. On North Korea Kerry would return to the bad old days of Madeline Albright and Jimmy Carter’s disastrous 1994 Agreed Framework – a policy that was a spectacular failure and did nothing to constrain North Korea’s proliferation of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile technology. Pakistan traded nuclear expertise to North Korea in exchange for ballistic missile technology right under the noses of the Clinton Administration – dangerously escalating two of the world’s biggest and most dangerous long-running conflicts? What did the Clinton Administration do? Absolutely nothing. At the time it was a bad policy. Today, it’s nearly suicidal.
The President’s critics stubbornly ignore his successes. We have taken Pakistan from one of the world’s largest terrorist states to an erstwhile ally of the United States that is actively trying to root out al-Qaeda. Musharraf remains alive and in power. The government of Saudi Arabia is no longer playing lip service to anti-terrorism and is now engaging al-Qaeda members in gun battles. Afghanistan has held the first free election in its history and is far more stable than Kerry gives it credit for. Kerry complains about opium production in Afghanistan. Given the choice between Afghanistan producing opium or producing terrorism, the former is infinitely preferable.
We are at war with an insiduous enemy, and Kerry is treating al-Qaeda like the Soprano family. As Djerejian also notes of Kerry:
This isn’t just semantic nit-picking. Kerry has hinted (often without realizing it), and too often in my view, that he would go back to the days that terrorism was treated as basically a law enforcement issue. He and his supporters will vehemently dispute this, of course. But, if you read between the lines, there’s a lot there to make you strongly suspect that to be the case. In my view, that’s just not acceptable in a post 9/11 world. And, more important, it shows a fundamental misunderstanding about the existential stakes at play given the long-term nature of the struggle we face against radical Islam.
This isn’t just a matter of “foreign policy instincts.” It’s a matter of core conviction regarding the nature of the struggle we find ourselves in. About the broad direction that American foreign policy will move in vis-a-vis responding to these very real challenges during the next so critical years. Give me, even with flawed policy execution, a leader who gets the stakes deep in his gut–above one who will have a better process (which, incidentally, I doubt) but has shown (repeatedly) a worrisomely sanguine view of the perils we face at the present hour.
And that’s the core issue I have with Kerry. It’s not that Bush is the greatest wartime leader this country has ever known – he’s done some things very well and bombed others. It’s that when it comes right down to it I don’t give a good goddamn what France or Germany thinks of our foreign policy. We have every vested interest in completely upsetting the apple cart in the Middle East. They have every interest in constraining Americna power and prestige and keeping the bloody status quo of the Middle East intact. Since September 11, it’s been plainly clear that the status quo in the Middle East is beyond unacceptable. President Bush for all his many flaws clearly and firmly understands this. Senator Kerry is either hopelessly muddled or completely lost on this seminal issue. His rhetoric that he would go after and kill the terrorists rings entirely hollow, an empty promise to buttress his weak record on national security.
At the end of the day we have a choice between a man who understands we are at war and behaves accordingly and a man whose instincts on this war are simply dead wrong. John Kerry says that September 11 didn’t change him much and his foreign policy insticts back up that statement every time. It is for this reason that John Kerry is not fit to be Commander in Chief of this nation in a time of war.